Photography tips

Photography tips

Postby Aussiebreeder » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:48 am

Just wondering if anyone can give me some tips on taking better pics of fish in aquariums :D

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Stan
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Re: Photography tips

Postby Anthony Calfo » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:47 am

I can't say that I am the best man to help you, my friend... but I do make a good part of my income on images specifically of aquatic themes (and often done in an aquarium for control). What are you looking to accomplish and what camera and gear do you have to work with? I'm sure we can make something work for you. You'll likely see too that many established recommendations for aquarium photography are just bunk (like not using a flash).
Aquarium hobby and aquatic science author and publisher. Micro hatchery operator (marine fishes and invertebrates).
Consultant - contact at www.ReadingTrees.com
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Re: Photography tips

Postby "Umm, fish?" » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:45 pm

And it depends, too, on what you are trying to shoot and at what magnifications. For example, if you say, "I want to shoot macro," the recommendations are very different from, "I want to shoot FTS," or "I want to shoot swimming fish." In fact, I often give different recommendations to people who want to shoot Acros (whose photos often seem to come out poorly under flash) than to people who want to shoot other corals.

As with everything else in life, defining your goals is the hard part but it makes the path to achieving them much clearer. :)

Anthony knows his photography. Study his recommendations very closely. I only very rarely ever disagree with his photography recommendations and then it's only when I have a very clear reason in my head of why I'm trying to do things another way.

And then: Practice, practice, practice. Make a commitment to take photos every day for a while. And then _look_ at what you've shot. Think about what you like about each photo and what you don't. Then next time, _use_ the insights to change the way you take your pictures. Set up controlled experiments (shoot a still-life from a tripod, say) where you can work your way through the manual controls on your camera so you can really get a feel for what the settings do. Set up challenges for yourself: Today I will shoot water drops until I get a shot of the "crown." (That's a really hard challenge, BTW, with lots of effort going into setting up the equipment.) Surf the internet until you find a photo you like and then re-create it. It'd be nice if I could tell you a way to skip the practice part, but there's no real alternative.
Andy

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Re: Photography tips

Postby Aussiebreeder » Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:29 pm

HI guys

Thanks for your responses the camera I am using at the moment is a Sony DSC-N2 properly not the best for taking fish pics. So the main this I would like to do is take photos of individual fish in aquariums I took a pic for the BC 2010 Banggais http://www.marinebreeder.org/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=166&t=6630 and as you can see it is far from good. Do you think I should get a tripod for my camera or should I just get a new camera?

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Re: Photography tips

Postby Anthony Calfo » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:01 pm

You certainly don't need a new camera if you are not looking to take up photography as a hobby (seriously). Your camera at 10mp can easily take very high quality print res shots. One of my photographers (and myself) used a 4mp camera (old G series Canon) back in 2001/2002 to collect photos for my second book. With that scrappy point and shoot we were able to get pull page quality prints. You can too, no worries.

Let's just talk fish photography for now. Part of your challenge is going to be that you may need a faster shutter speed and/or a faster film speed equivalent to stop the action (presuming you don't want an emotive blur) for a sharp pic of your fish. Do do either or both of those things, you need more light. That does not necessarily mean use a flash (more on that in a moment)... but it does mean, errr... well, you need more light. You'd be surprised at how inadequate those bright reef lights are sometimes for photography without a flash :)

The point is to time the composition to your benefit. Focus your lens on a bright point close to the glass and wait (or lure) the fish to that spot. Let's see then if you have enough overhead light to forgo use of the flash. And frankly, the built-in flash on most any camera is useless (too small and awkward position for good light spread). In a perfect world, every camera would have a hot shoe so we could add at least one off camera flash :)

I mentioned focusing near the front of the tank. That's a cardinal rule here in many cases: you want as little between you and the subject as possible. Don't tilt your camera lens (the angle through the aquarium glass means more glass and likely distorted). Take your shot as perpendicular and as close to the glass as possible (also helpful when you do use a flash as this reduces flashback).

If your subject(s) is friendly about coming close to the glass, try the macro setting (flower icon?). This auto setting sometimes does yield decent results.

But whatever you do... never use the digital zoom(!) Optical zoom is great... but digital zoom just ruins pics :)

Use a tripod or a chair or anything fixed and steady. Take a few shots and come back to us with some samples and details about what you did, my friend.
Aquarium hobby and aquatic science author and publisher. Micro hatchery operator (marine fishes and invertebrates).
Consultant - contact at www.ReadingTrees.com
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Re: Photography tips

Postby Aussiebreeder » Sat Jan 30, 2010 12:28 am

Hi Anthony,

Thanks for all the tips, I have just cleaned my system so it is a bit cloudy right now I will try later today or tomorrow morning and post some pics.

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Re: Photography tips

Postby "Umm, fish?" » Sat Jan 30, 2010 12:49 am

Thanks for your responses the camera I am using at the moment is a Sony DSC-N2 properly not the best for taking fish pics.


You might be surprised. All cameras have good and bad points. Little point-n-shoots get far better depth-of-field than SLRs do, so they are actually _better_ than an SLR for taking macro (assuming, of course, that you can find a way to get your camera to the 1:1 or better range that you need for macro). Also, if you can get to macro magnifications, your built-in flash would be much less likely to cast a shadow across your subject than mine would be, and when you are that close the under-powered flash is plenty. There's actually a famous macrophotographer that uses P&Ss quite a lot for his work. I can look up the name if you are interested.

Here's an interesting little read: http://digital-photography-school.com/macro-photography-tips-for-compact-digital-camera-users

In the end, it's all about using the camera that you have enough to get to know it, rather than having the latest and greatest equipment.
Andy

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Re: Photography tips

Postby Aussiebreeder » Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:23 pm

Anthony Calfo wrote:Use a tripod or a chair or anything fixed and steady. Take a few shots and come back to us with some samples and details about what you did, my friend.


Ok so I went out and got myself a tripod, as the chair/bucket just didn't do the job for me. I have taken few pics, I think they're a little fuzzy ( this might be because the fish where at the towards the back of a 4 x 2 x 2ft quarantine tank) any comments on how I might improve the quality of the photos would be greatly appreciated. I was also of adding some water polishing media in the filter do you think this might help?

Image
Image
Image
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Re: Photography tips

Postby Aussiebreeder » Sun Jan 31, 2010 6:32 am

So this is another attempt I had this afternoon, I was able to get some of the fish close to the front of the aquarium and I was using the macro this time.

Image
Image
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Re: Photography tips

Postby Anthony Calfo » Sun Jan 31, 2010 9:53 am

Cheers, Stan

Definitely some good thing to chat about here. As far as the water clarification goes, too... yes, the water needs to be clear especially if you are using a flash. If there is more than a little bit of turbidity or particulates in the water, the flash will reflect off of them. Basic carbon and mechanical filtration is all that's needed. If you have a sump, putting a filter sock on the downflow works nicely. And FWIW... in a perfect world, we'd all have ozonizers for when we need to clarify the water :)

Another thing to consider here is the nature of the aquarium. Glass or acrylic, either way, it is almost certainly a rather poor grade of material for photgraphy. While clear enough for aquarium use, the iron enriched glass is rather dreadful for taking pictures (look down the short end side and see how dark it is... not to mention distortions revealed with a camera lens when viewed from the front). Aquarium use acrylic, though clearer, typically has problems with distortion as well as microscratches. What I'm tring to say here, I reckon, it that you have to take in the reality that you could have a $1000 lens, but you are still shooting through a $4/sq. ft piece of glass. That doesn't bode well for getting superior shots. That said, you still can get rather good photos with some trial and error.

May I suggest that you place an object with some dimmension and character (small algae covered stone, perhaps) near to the front of the tank where you might like to photograph fishes passing by? Then you can tale 20, 50, 100 shots, etc and experiment with settings and distances to rather quickly learn your best camera settings on a much friendlier (read: not moving!) subject.

As for your pics, blurriness aside, the lesson to be learned here is an appreciation for the working depth of field. on the macro settings, the depth of field that will be in focus is very short. So on the one Banggai swimming away pic you see that the fishes closest portion (tail) is not in focus but the head is. That indicates that you likely exceeded the minimum focal distance of the lens. Check online or your manual to see if you can find what that is for your camera lens. For many is a sound 10-12" (min distance you need to be away).

The Pseudo is a more exaggerated example of this since the fish is staring at you. Head is in focus but very quickly the rest of the subject drops away. This can be used quite artistically to draw one's eye to the head or an otherwise importation segment of the composition. You generally want tighter shots though in such compositions (meaning you don't want the fishes face that is in focus to only take up just 10 or 20% of the frame).

Why don't you try getting some clear shots of that anemone too? It doesn't move much and may be a friendlier subject to learn some quick parameters on.
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Consultant - contact at www.ReadingTrees.com
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Re: Photography tips

Postby Gomojoe » Sun May 16, 2010 7:07 pm

Another tip for photos that a lot of people don't talk much about is editing with a program like Adobe Photoshop! Of course there is a gray line where you cross over into creating a fake photo, but with just a few tools in employment I think you are just helping to take what your eyes can see and replicate it, IMO. I will typically take photos underexposed, which allows me to get faster shutter speeds and lower ISO, all good for fast moving fish! Also, with today's digital technology it is easy to "push" a photo if it is underexposed, but it is about impossible to fix an overexposed photo! So I'll take the underexposed photo and tweak the levels a little bit which helps with contrast to make the item of interest stand out! I might also tweak the Color Temp of the photo, and then I use a tool in Photoshop the really makes pictures look good which is called the unsharpen mask! That tool works really well corals to make the texture really stand out! I hope you don't mind, and I will delete it if you would like, but I used your photo, Stan, to show the change to the image using these tools:

Here is the bangaii original image:
Image

And then this one has had the levels adjusted, Color Temp slightly tweeked, and then applied the unsharpen mask!
Image

Basically using these tools I find that I can clear up, and essentially correct for slight blur in my photos! Of course the better the picture you start with the better the results will be in the end!
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Re: Photography tips

Postby elvis.barron » Thu May 27, 2010 2:29 am

I suggest that you place an object with some dimension and character (small algae covered stone, perhaps) near to the front of the tank where you might like to photograph fishes passing by? Then you can tale 20, 50, 100 shots, etc and experiment with settings and distances to rather quickly learn your best camera settings on a much friendlier subject.
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Re: Photography tips

Postby Gilroye » Fri Jun 10, 2011 7:22 am

Hi Stan,
Looks like you have kept and followed all advises you got for photography.
Awesome pictures and great fishes you have. Do share more pictures with us.
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